Happy with a Broken Heart

The past few weeks have been rocky for me. After being hospitalized and undergoing surgery, I could not help but reflect on my mortality. In the midst of my physical pain and emotional confusion, I found myself thinking about death in so many ways. Right before I went into surgery, for a brief moment, I thought about my mom and dad; until I admitted to myself that I am not ready to see them again…

It all started when a routine check-up turned into a serious health scare. There I was, sitting in the doctor’s office, and all I heard were the words “tumour”, “cancer”, “general anaesthesia” and “surgery”. I did not cry. I was in complete shock. All I did was put on a fake smile; the kind I wore for many years after my parents died. Deep down I felt confused, scared and angry. Was I going to die? Was I going to face my biggest fear?

Since giving birth to my daughter two years ago, my biggest fear is that of dying young and having my child grow up an orphan as I did. I would not wish the pain I went through on my worst enemy, let alone my own child. The thought of possibly having Cancer shook me to the core. I was scared of having to go through surgery, and I was scared of getting bad news after the surgery. Most of all, I was terrified of leaving my daughter behind.

Due to the Covid-19 crisis, I was not allowed any visitors when I was hospitalized. This gave me a lot of time to reflect on life. I cannot describe how terrified I was. When I was wheeled into theatre for surgery, I felt both physically and mentally cold. As the doctor put the IV needle in the back of my hand, I thought about my parents. “If I die today”, I thought to myself, “does that mean that I’ll see mom and dad again?” Needles usually horrify me, but I barely felt a pinch as I thought about death and what it would mean for my grief. After what felt like hours (but probably was not more than a minute), I realized that I was just not ready to see my parents again…

It turns out, no matter how much I miss my parents and how much their death still hurts me, I am happy with the life I have today. I am so content, that given the “opportunity” (for lack of a better word) to see my parents in heaven, I would rather remain alive in my present life with the people I love. For a moment, this made me feel so guilty. I mean, how can I live a happy life without them in it, right? Well, that’s just the thing: over the years I have learnt to live my new normal without having my parents physically by my side. Although my grief will forever be a part of me, I have learnt to live with it and to live with having my parents in my heart and in my soul. I hate to say it, but this is my normal and it took going through what I went through the past few weeks to accept it and to realize that I am happy with it.

I recently read somewhere on Instagram that grief and joy have a funny way of co-existing. The past few weeks have taught me that my grief no longer takes away my joy and that my joy will never take away my grief. That’s the unfortunate beauty of experiencing the loss of a loved one – with time, you learn to be happy again; happy with a broken heart.